State's role in helping boys is tricky

Salt Lake Tribune/March 13, 2005
By Brooke Adams

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff described the plight of the Lost Boys as a "sin that cannot be allowed to continue" last August when he joined businessman Dan Fischer's effort to solicit public help for them.

The teens, mostly males, have been shunned by their families in the polygamous towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. -- turned out because of rebellious behavior, loss of faith or, as a lawsuit filed by a handful of the teens alleges, because they are competition for older men in search of plural wives.

At the time, Shurtleff said his office would investigate polygamous parents who have abandoned their children, which is a misdemeanor in Utah. Nearly eight months later, no such action has been taken -- and exactly what the state should do is uncertain.

For one thing, Shurtleff said the teens themselves don't want their parents prosecuted.

"The law allows us to pursue charges even if the victims don't want us to, but since it was a misdemeanor, no one has felt they wanted to prosecute those cases," he said.

Shurtleff said the effort instead has been to help the teens finish schooling or get high school equivalency diplomas. His office also backed a bill that stalled in the 2005 Legislature that was designed with the Lost Boys specifically in mind. It would have allowed minors to be emancipated at age 16 under certain conditions, thus able to qualify on their own for various state aid.

"We will try again," Shurtleff said.

Adam Trupp, a spokesman for the Utah Division of Child and Family Services, said his agency works to reunite parents and children -- which may not be a goal of either the Lost Boys, their parents or families who have taken the teens in.

"As we try to look at what the response is to those kids' needs, we run into more questions and other problems," Trupp said.

There also is the question of whether the state should intervene at all as long as the boys' needs are being met by kind-hearted volunteers, Trupp says.

All of this leaves couples like Stacha and Neil Glauser who try to help the Lost Boys in a legal and financial limbo. Because they aren't legal guardians, for instance, they often have a hard time helping with schooling, medical care and car insurance.

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